What is Recall on Windows 11? The AI timeline feature explained.

Here's all you need to know about Recall for Windows 11 so far.

Windows 11 Recall
Windows 11 Recall / Image: Mauro Huculak
  • Microsoft announces the new AI timeline feature officially called “Recall” for Windows 11.
  • The feature will take snapshots of the content on the screen to make it searchable through AI.
  • Recall will be available for Copilot Plus PCs with integrated NPUs starting June 18, 2024.

UPDATED 6/4/2024: On Windows 11, Recall is a new feature that uses AI to track all your activities across applications and then makes everything you have done on your computer searchable using natural language.

“Recall” is the official name for what the company was internally calling “AI Explorer,” and it’s actually an app that introduces an interface that allows you to find virtually anything (for example, documents, images, websites, messages, email, apps, and more) you have seen on your computer.

How to use Recall on Windows 11?

When you open the Recall app from the button in the Taskbar, you will find a search box that you can use to describe your search using text and voice, and then the feature will show your snapshots for the most relevant content, similar to using a search engine online using text or images.

Microsoft describes the experience as having a “photographic memory.”

On the result page, you can view all the results, sort by apps, and even launch File Explorer results.

The results will also be grouped by categories, such as “text matches,” “visual matches,” etc. Once you find the snapshot, click it to pick up where you left off.

Recall result page / Image: The Verge
Recall result page / Image: The Verge

You will also find a “Timeline” button next to the search functionality, which allows you to choose a period to scroll back to a specific time to find a specific activity, such as a website, conversation, application, etc.

How does Recall for Windows 11 work?

On compatible devices, Recall works by taking screenshots of your activities every few seconds, and the feature will save these images on your computer.

When you search for a particular snapshot, the AI feature analyzes the image and provides options to interact with that content.

However, during the preview phase, this feature is limited, and the company says that in future updates, the feature will be able to open the snapshot in the original application it was created, and it will be more capable.

One thing to point out with Recall is that it uses a lot of storage to save the snapshot images. This feature requires a minimum of 25GB of space, which the system reserves exclusively for storing up to three months of snapshots.

For this reason, the company requires a minimum of 256GB of storage in the device and at least 50GB of free space before reserving the 25GB and enabling Recall on the computer.

It’s important to note that once the feature reaches the storage limit, it will start deleting old snapshots to save new ones. As a result, there’s a limit on the things the feature can remember.

However, Microsoft is also adding a new page in the Settings app to customize the experience, including the ability to increase the storage allocation for Recall.

Recall & snapshots settings
Recall & snapshots settings / Image: Mauro Huculak

As part of the privacy strategy, the company says that data generated using Recall will stay privately on the device. If you enable BitLocker on the computer, you can take advantage of encryption to protect your snapshots further.

Also, from the settings page, you can choose specific apps and websites you visit to filter out the experience, clear some of the screenshots, and you will be able to delete all the Recall data from the computer. Furthermore, from the Recall icon in the System Tray, you will be able to pause the feature on-demand, view the last snapshot, and even open the app. And yes, from the “Recall & snapshot” settings page, you will be able to disable Recall permanently.

Recall Taskbar flyout
Recall Taskbar flyout / Image: Mauro Huculak

The feature also doesn’t record certain content like activities when browsing in incognito mode, and content with digital rights management (DRM).

Microsoft also points out that Recall doesn’t hide information like passwords or bank account numbers. If you have this type of information in the text files or sites that don’t follow the standard protocol, like cloaking password entries, sensitivity data may be stored in the snapshot storage.

What are the hardware requirements for running Recall?

The Recall app for Windows 11 won’t be available for every device running the latest version of the operating system. Instead, Microsoft is reserving this feature for “Copilot Plus PCs,” which are a type of computers with specific hardware requirements, including:

  • Processor like Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite.
  • NPU (Neural Processing Unit) with 40 TOPS (Tera Operations per Second).
  • 16GB of memory.
  • 256GB of SSD.

According to the company, Recall is currently optimized for select languages, including English, Chinese (simplified), French, German, Japanese, and Spanish.

Although this feature is new to Windows 11, it may sound familiar since Windows 10 included a “Timeline” feature that was less powerful because it didn’t have AI integration. However, because it didn’t gain popularity, later on, the company deprecated and removed it from the operating system. 

When does Recall for Windows 11 be released?

Windows 11’s Recall will be available on Copilot Plus PCs starting June 18, and a system update will be required to enable the feature.

You will find it as a button in the System Tray.

What are your initial thoughts about Recall for Windows 11? Let me know in the comments.

Update June 4, 2024: This content has been updated with new screenshots to showcase the feature.

Update June 14, 2024: Microsoft has announced that it is temporarily pausing the rollout of the Windows Recall AI feature as it needs more time for testing and ensuring security. As a result, Copilot+ PCs won’t get the feature on June 18.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and About.me. Email him at [email protected].